1. Having the automatic car starter Kip got me for Christmas installed. Best. Gift. EVER.
2. Sunday night, Kip went down to his brother's house to watch the Pats game and Ainslie and I had a girls' night. The highlight: we turned off all the lights in the living room except for the Christmas tree and sat on the couch looking at how pretty it was in the dark. Apparently it was very romantic, because Ainslie leaned over and gave me a kiss and then thought me saying "Mwah!" was hilarious; we spent the next five minutes giving each other kisses with the "Mwah"s getting more and more exaggerated and laughing harder and harder in between each one.
3. One of my oldest friends, Shannon, came over to visit yesterday and it was so great!
4. My in-laws came over on Tuesday for a big family Christmas before Kip went back to Juneau, and it went really well! I didn't stress getting everything ready that morning, the food was good, and the cleanup wasn't too terrible thanks to my sister-in-law doing the dishes for me.
5. During aforementioned readying of the food for Tuesday Christmas, my mother-in-law fell asleep on our couch, which I counted as a wonderful sign that my home was comfortable enough for her to feel that comfortable.
6. Ainslie got to hang out in the toddler room at daycare, where she got to see her BFF, Tripp, who moved up to the toddler room about a month ago. They were clearly exhilarated to see each other!
7. This video, thanks to Kip:
8. Kip's and my getaway on Monday night. It was nice to be able to have dinner and sleep in without worrying about being woken up by Ainslie.
9. Kip and I watched "The Sound of Music" and declared that we are going to learn how to do the Laendler dance that Maria and Georg do in the ball scene. I'm psyched.
10. We found out last week that Kip can do Lasik surgery, which means that he's one step closer to getting a job with the State Troopers!
Even though I'm not technically on winter break from school yet, since I have one pesky paper standing between me and it, I've already started my resolution to get back into blogging. And last week, when I did, it felt REALLY good. I redesigned and re-titled, I've started having that glorious stream of consciousness, never-ending blog post soliloquy going on in the back of my head again, and I've been going back through old posts to label them for my spiffy new label cloud. In all this process, though, I stumbled onto something I think I've known for ages, but which I now realize is a much bigger factor than I'd previously thought: I really miss Barry.
Barry's "An Explorer's View of Life" was the first blog I ever followed, and while I never followed it (or him) in a creepy, stalkerish way, he was very much the blogger that I wanted to become. We never met, and we never talked save for a few traded comments and emails, but we built this strange, blog-based relationship that left me (and my blog) with a big, Barry-shaped hole after he died last summer.
And then Tessa, at "An Aerial Armadillo" followed him last December.
And then I just didn't really feel like writing anymore.
I can't believe I didn't realize the connection before, but going back through old posts I realized that those two people and their blogs really touched my heart in a special way. They were part of the original gang in the Friday Photo Shoot-Outs, they did the Willow Manor Ball, and they shared a unique zest for life that I would love to emulate, and that I'd like to think that I did emulate for awhile. Lest I descend into thinking that their departures are solely responsible for my waning interest in writing, I have to remind myself (and apparently anyone who's reading this) that between Barry's death in July and Tessa's in December came September 2010, the Lost Month in which I was in early labor the. entire. friggin. time. And then there was October 2010, the Second Lost Month in which Ainslie was born and we were in the NICU for the rest of the majority of the month. Over the past 14 months since then, I've looked back on Facebook posts and on here, and I've realized two things:
1) I'm a ridiculously positive person
2) That positivity gets in the way of the truth sometimes
And the truth is this: as much as I tried to shrug it off and focus on the positive in public (or semi-public social networking situations), last Fall was hell. Ainslie almost died. I almost died. And I've been fighting all the emotional turmoil (my euphemism of choice, since PTSD sounds too clinical and trendy to me) that's come from that ever since. When I started this blog back in 2007, I vowed not to let it turn into my high school-era LiveJournal (ooo, remember those?) where I just whined a lot about not having a boyfriend or being popular--you know, the Stuff That's Really Important in high school. But there is a middle ground between being whiny and being truthful. And I would like to start being more truthful here.
Barry and Tessa both took life by the horns and enjoyed every little experience, including (if it's at all possible) their terminal diseases. I don't have a terminal disease; I just had an experience that could act as a terminal disease to my spirit. But I don't want it to. So here I am, writing again, and I will go back to my blogging roots, in the spirit of Barry and Tessa, and take life by the horns including the good and the bad. And I will write about both this time.
Ten Things That Have Made Me Smile This Past Week:
1. How long my class applauded for my teacher last Thursday after our last lecture. It was nice to be in a class that appreciated our professor enough to actually show it. North Park was great, but all the non-majors who were in my mandatory classes just to fulfill a Gen-Ed requirement really brought the morale down.
2. Our Christmas tree in general--taking Ainslie to get our first family tree (last year was too complicated to get one), Kip and me getting through putting it up with nary an argument (which I hear is a really big deal in some marriages but has never proved to be a problem for us), decorating it together a few nights ago with our growing collection of ornaments and handmade garlands that I whipped together from old paper bags (some of which were from Panera, which lent a nice tan and red color scheme).
3. Ainslie's level of excitement when it comes to taking baths. She isn't too jazzed about having her hair washed, but she loves her bath toys and the whole process so much that when Kip had the shower turned on last night after his evening run and was putzing around while it warmed up, Ainslie ran (as much as a toddler can run) into the bathroom, emptied the contents of her bucket of bath toys into the tub, and stood at the side of the tub wiggling up and down trying to take off her shirt until I obliged and let her sit in the tub while the warm water came down from the shower head. Water coming from a height confused her a bit, but she eventually threw herself through the deluge in search of the one bath toy that (ironically) requires a tub full of water to be of any use. It was super cute.
4. How happy Kip was after that aforementioned evening run.
5. Our mini Christmas this morning. Kip has to go back to Juneau on the 21st, so we celebrated today, on the feast day of St. Lucia. It was a perfectly low-key morning involving a very modest number of gifts, a very unmodest amount of cinnamon rolls, and just enough Christmas movies.
6. I hate it when people do this, but I am just so excited about what Kip gave me for Christmas that I have to shout it from the rooftops: the Adele Live at Royal Albert Hall DVD (which I am watching right now with great joy and longing for England) and an automatic car starter that will be installed on Friday. No more running downstairs to warm up the car and then praying that nobody steals it while I'm getting Ainslie up in the early mornings I go to school! I'M SO EXCITED!!!!! My man's THE man.
7. The way Ainslie has started running down the hall in our apartment for the sole purpose of being chased, belly laughing the whole way.
8. Lunch on Saturday with my sister-in-law. It was a great girls' day!
9. The debate Kip and I got into on the T on the way back from school last Thursday over the changes in the Mass liturgy. I'm pretty sure the people around us wanted to kill us, but it was super fun.
10. I missed class last Tuesday because Ainslie was sick and Kip had a job interview, and two of my classmates sent me emails saying they missed me! It made me feel good :) I have friends, yay!
My newest home design obsession (and I use that word completely seriously) is somehow finding a card catalog. Yeah, you read that correctly. A Card. Catalog. Like, the type that we used to flip through in elementary school (or middle school, or high school, or college, depending on how old you are) to find books in the library...hypothetically in my case, of course, since by the time I finally figured out how to use the darn thing, it'd been replaced by a computer search system.
^ That kind of card catalog
In an ideal world, I would use it as a credenza-type piece of furniture, pretty much as pictured above. In a beyond-ideal world, I would use it in my spiffy craft room as a way to store all my little crafty doodads and it would be glorious.
My three resolutions for my Winter Break from school stand thus:
1. Get back into blogging
2. Read a non-academic book just for fun
3. Start taking photos again
3a. Find the cord to upload said photos to my computer to help with Resolution #1
I've been trying to think of a proper blog title now that I have a real apartment and official stuff like that here. But it doesn't feel right giving the blog an official, geographically related title when Kip isn't here yet. He's still working on getting a job out here, with varying levels of success, so while my address is in New Hampshire, my heart and my home are still split between here and Alaska. I'm looking forward to when he gets a job and moves here, we'll settle down and buy a house and be all domestic (at which point I'm sure I'll have some sort of identity crisis and start another Etsy store or dedicate myself to international travel again or get into a new random hobby, like glass etching). So, until that happens, I'm Dreaming of Home in New England..., with another nifty little ellipsis in the title that looks toward the future this time instead of to the past.
This morning sees me sitting on our new porch, wild berry tea in hand, some laundry drying as I type and my baby sound asleep a few doors down the hall. Almost as soon as Ainslie and I got to New Hampshire, I realized that um, she's eleven months old. Which freaks me out for a few reasons:
1. She's ELEVEN. MONTHS. OLD. That's only one month away from 12 months, which is a year.
1a. That was when we first got here. Now, her birthday is less than a week away. Aaaaah!
2. She gets into absolutely everything, which I try to encourage as much as possible without being reckless. How is she supposed to learn about the world by sitting in a little bubble of baby-proofedness all the time?
3. The aforementioned two points would have made living with the friend we were supposed to live with a constant chorus of, "Ainslie, don't touch that please. Don't touch that either. Here, come sit in this box and don't touch anything."
A solo apartment was just easier. So, in a whirlwind two days, I found one. And it's awesome. It's the perfect size, in a nice neighborhood that I feel safe in, and I can paint the walls! So I have, and it is glorious.
The only downside to my own personal Taj Mahal: spiders.
My mom noticed them first, mentioning to me one day that there were a few on the outside of the front door. Then I noticed them. Then I noticed one on my living room carpet. Then I noticed a spider bite on Ainslie's leg and declared WAR. I went to the property manager and asked to have the doorway sprayed, which I realized didn't happen when the spiders came back after three days. Then I decided it was REALLY WAR. Upon finding one spidering around in the entryway, I squashed it under my shoe and tossed its little spider body out onto the landing, Mexican drug cartel-style, as a warning to the others. And ever since this formal declaration of my intentions to wipe them off the face of the earth (or at least my doorway), I've been worried that they're going to launch a counteroffensive, working through the night to spin one of those super powerful webs in front of my door so that I can't get out in the morning, or at the very least walk into it and spend the next year with the heeby jeebies.
Now the only thing that would make my palace complete is my stuff. Which is still in Alaska, or somewhere in Nebraska, or maybe sitting in a warehouse at some random moving company down the street I don't know, the movers won't tell me anything. More about that later.
I'd forgotten how wonderful the silence on the El as it crosses the canal between Merchandise Mart and Washington/Wells can be. It's eerie, as every person on the train stops checking their phones and reading their Kindles to look up at the skyline, turning around to catch a glimpse of the other bridges before the train car is engulfed in a jungle of concrete pillars and windows facing office cubicles once again. Of course, I also forgot how creepy it is when somebody or another causes a ruckus on the train shortly thereafter, as was the case yesterday as Ainslie and I rode the brown line to see the Bean (get it? I took my Bean to see the Bean! Photos ensued) and hang out with Mary, Sarah, and Sarah's twin boys Johnny (who is Ainslie's new boyfriend) and Emmet. The aforementioned ruckus happened when a guy wearing a Nikon hat and sporting a large camera with a telescoping lens started taking pictures on the train and a woman a few seats down from him didn't want her photo taken (along with everyone else on the train...let's just say Ainslie was quickly covered by a blanket and Mama Bear was ready to pounce), and Nikon guy wasn't too happy with that. Gosh, I've missed the ups and downs of Chicago.
Kasey and Matt's wedding on Saturday was lovely. Ainslie was very interested in singing along with the Gregorian Chant choir, which meant that we spent the entire wedding in the back of the church keeping her quiet, with the exception of when Matt and Kasey walked down the aisle at the end, which we felt merited Ainslie's squeals of joy for the happy couple. I held her as she wiggled and clapped at them as they approached her. Too cute in my opinion (and, as Ainslie's godmother, I'm pretty sure Kasey would agree). Seeing everyone again was surreal since most of us are now married, and I've come to the conclusion that I don't think I'll ever quite get over the feeling that I'm entirely too young to be living the life I am. The next day, we joined the new Mr. and Mrs. Rose for my first ever Latin mass at St. John Cantius church, which was really interesting. Kip and I pulled off the most amazing transfer of a sleeping baby ever to happen in a Communion line, and I felt extremely Marian taking Communion kneeling at the rail, with my head covered, holding a sleeping baby. How very Catholic of me.
We've been staying in Kasey and Matt's apartment while they're on vacation, and it's been a fun few days of sightseeing, taking Ainslie to the Shedd Aquarium (she loved the jellyfish), and generally partaking of as many trips to Julius Meinl as possible. Kip left to go back to work in Juneau on Tuesday afternoon, but Monday night contained what I have officially minted the nicest family dinner we've ever had. We sat in the newly opened back garden at Tre Kronor and ate amazing Swedish food while the breeze blew away most of the bugs and rustled the leaves in the trees overhead and the grasses in the garden beside us. Ainslie topped off the night by clapping for us (a skill she'd learned only a few days before) and charming everyone else in a twenty foot radius. I was pleasantly surprised when our bill came with three Anna's cookies, a tradition I'd thought they'd forgone (Ellen, they're apparently still doing it for dinner at least!).
To say that I'm less than super psyched about being separated from Kip for the foreseeable future is a severe understatement. I deal with it by alternating between denial and sadness. Once he has a job in New Hampshire he'll move out too, but we haven't gotten any leads yet. I know we made the decision to do this as a family--the financial aid offered at BC was too good to turn down and wasn't guaranteed if I deferred, it's the best thing for the family for him to go from one job right to another, blah blah blah--but it still sucks. We're planning on getting into a schedule of Skyping, emailing and sending letters so hopefully that will help. As he put it, "Some of our best years were long distance. Years! We can do this!" For now, I'm trying to keep busy and enjoy Chicago and its hot weather before we continue on to New Hampshire next week. Ainslie has dealt with the heat remarkably well considering where she was born and the fact that she's never experienced it before for any length of time. And I'd like to think I'm doing pretty well, too--this morning we took a walk to a restaurant that doesn't allow strollers, and it was too hot for the Ergo carrier, so I just took the lightweight scarf that I'd used to cover my hair at church on Sunday, tied a knot in the end, and used it as a sling to great success. Maybe being in the Lower 48 makes me more resourceful, but I think maybe I should credit that to Alaska. So long, Juneau, it's been swell.
I'm a list person. I make lists. So here are the two lists i have been keeping as of late, mostly beause i need one or the other of them depending on the moment.
Things I Will Miss About Juneau:
-ridiculously easily accessible hiking
-being near the water
-friends, so many of them
-Katy Rice...she deserves her own unique bullet point
-the separation from mainstream American ridiculousness (ex: i really heard none of the craziness surrounding Michael Jackson's death)
-the laidbackness of it all
-the yarn/fabric shops
**note: these are subject to revision and in no particular order**
Things I Will Not Miss About Juneau:
-lack of diverse shopping (you really don't know how much you appreciate Old Navy until you live somewhere where you literally cannot buy anything quality--not that Old Navy is super quality--in your size)
-driving past the birth center all the time
-lack of ability to pursue theological interests
-distance from family and friends
-how weird it is to everyone when you dress nicely
-lack of local, fresh produce
-the skanky bars on Front Street
If, when I get old, I lose my memory and people and places fade from my mind, I want one of the few memories I keep to be this one.
This afternoon, I played with Ainslie in our living room, tossing her in the air over and over again to hear her laugh. Up she'd go, screaming with joy, and just as her ascent reached its zenith, she'd look up at the world around her, past me to see what lay beyond, smiling at all of it in her new, higher and momentary perch on the air. I caught her and tossed her up again and again, until my arms were tired and I was out of breath, at which time simply stopping our fun seemed anticlimactic, so I wrapped her legs around my waist and put my arms behind her back and spun in place. Without missing a beat, Ainslie leaned back onto my arms and let her hands fly free, throwing her head back as well, closing her eyes and smiling a smile that I recognized from the times I've been completely in a moment, closing my eyes to try to remember it forever.
And I was completely blown away by this.
She was so beautiful there, that smile, trusting me to hold onto her, her arms stretched wide and her hair sticking straight up with the force of our spin. I got too dizzy and we both collapsed onto the floor looking at each other and giggling, out of breath from our fun. And she looked at me like I was exactly what she'd imagined me to be while she was waiting to be born, wondering who was connected to the heartbeat she constantly heard.
Even if Ainslie grows up to be the first female president or finds a cure for the common cold or invents the first biodegradable soda can, this is how I want to remember her when I'm old and gray.
Lately in our house it's been Ainslie and Tillamook, Tillamook and Ainslie taking on the world together. It's almost like they were meant for each other (in a non-creepy, completely platonic way), except for that whole he's a cat thing. It started pretty early in Ainslie's life--she'd see him and smile. And then she started laughing whenever she saw him. And then she wanted to pet him. For awhile, he rebuffed her advances, but eventually he gave in to her charms (who could blame him, really?) and now they are the absolute best of friends. I think it's because they find the same things utterly fascinating:
-They open kitchen cabinet doors and drawers together.
-They are fascinated with running water.
-They love balloons (although I suspect that Tillamook just likes popping them with his claws).
-They can't get enough of Ainslie's square mirror--Ainslie likes looking in it, and Tillamook likes chasing the light reflection it throws onto the wall.
-I had to cover the electrical outlets to keep Tillamook from electrocuting his whiskers before Ainslie got the idea from him and started poking at the outlet covers.
-They'll sit together for 15 minutes at a time while Ainslie turns the pages of our DVD binder, occasionally looking at each other as if to say "I don't get why the adults don't understand how incredibly amazing this sound is!"
-They both constantly crawl over to my basket of yarn and disturb its contents.
-They fight over Tillamook's toys (and by "fight" I mean that Ainslie waits until Tillamook isn't around, then swipes his foam ball, blue puff dangler toy and the orange fluffy mouse with the bell on its tail until I take them away and tell her that he doesn't want to share and yes, that's quite rude of him).
-They can't wait for me to open packages whenever we get them (I have a photo of the two of them climbing over a box from my mom, trying to see what's inside).
Tillamook has taken to sleeping in the corner of Ainslie's room or on her changing table (when I'm feeling gracious) during the day, and on more than one occasion, I've found him waiting outside her door after I put her to bed. He sits on the side of the tub when she takes a bath. And it's not just a one way street of affection--I kid you not, Ainslie has literally gone from screaming at the top of her lungs to laughing because Tillamook walked in the room, yawned, and stretched out on the floor. And as if all this weren't enough, today I realized that, as she kept looking from him to me and babbling, she was really saying, "Gee-eee, Gee-eee", which I suspect is her "I can't make the 'T' or 'K' sounds" way of trying to say "Kitty".
It's enough to warm your heart and turn you into a cat person, really.
But let it be resolved that while I am still here I will make the best of it, I will enjoy it, and I will squeeze everything I can out of this fair city of ours before I kick the Juneau bucket in a month. Because I absolutely refuse to look back on this experience and say, "I lived in Alaska for three-ish years and I didn't _________ ?!?!?!?"
My Alaska Bucket List:
Drive to the Glacier to pick up the International Year of Forests posters.
Hike as much as possible. Trails to include: West Glacier Loop, Gastineau Meadows, Perseverance, finally summit Mount Roberts (for real this time) and possibly a chunk or all of Mount Juneau
Pick out a Tlingit paddle with Kip
Photograph, photograph, photograph! Especially make sure to shoot the mine ruins past Sandy Beach
Actually see a whale breach--I've seen one spout, I've seen a fluke, but I've never seen one breach
Kayak at the Shrine
Restaurants to make one last run to: Tracy's Crab Shack, the Sandpiper, Empanada Dorada
Put together a box of Alaskan goodness for Ainslie when she gets older, so she can learn more about where she was born
Send smoked salmon to Dr. Zelle
Pick blueberries (THIS YEAR I WILL FIND THEM!!!!!!!!)
Walk the Airport Trail the whole way
Have matching kuspuks made for me and Ainslie
Swim in the glacier runoff (but only if we have a significant stretch of warm days)
Go gold panning with Sarah Morin
All of this in addition to normal moving type things and seeing friends as much as I can, etc. It was actually kind of nice to sit for awhile and think of things I'd like to do in Alaska, because really....I've already done the vast majority of it. If I had to sit and make a list of all the cool things I've done here that I wanted to, it would be much longer. Regrets? I only have one: I wish I'd been able to take Ainslie for a walk in Anchorage before we left in October; the trees on the trail by the university looked really neat, but it just wasn't possible.
Good gracious, I just spent a solid 45 minutes laughing so hard I cried at the comment threads on this article. "When your friends come over, what's your panic object?" the author asks, "The thing you hope they don't find, because it'll mean no end to merciless teasing?" The responses are like Post Secret, only not secret or anonymous. And the sheer amount of people who are terrorized by their cats cracks me up, because I live in mortal fear of anyone dropping by unannounced on the day that the cat box really really needs to be emptied (like today, so please give us 24 hours please).
I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard. That felt good.
The Downside: When Kip isn't home from work by 3:30 am, I instinctively get nervous, wake up and stay up until he gets home.
The Upside: all our dishes are clean now.
The Down-Downside: Ainslie doesn't care how many hours I'm up in the middle of the night, she still wakes up at 8 (or 9:30....or 10:30....okay maybe it's not all that consistent).
The Up-Upside: I found my blogging motivation somewhere between the sudsy water and the blinking time on the clock. Yay!
Last night was glorious. After a dreary morning in which literally everybody I know (or at least everybody whose number is still on my phone after The Great iPhone-Meets-Water Incident of 2011) had other plans and left me stranded, plan-less and itching for some interaction with anyone who can put together two-syllable words, the Sun decided to hang out with me. I took Ainslie for a walk that was intended to be a lot longer than it was, but was none the less enjoyable for it--I ended up getting waylaid by several friends sitting out in their front yards with glasses of wine basking in the sunlight.
I've just realized that, in Juneau, we all start to resemble cats when it's sunny; we don't necessarily do anything in the sunlight, we just lay in it, hoping to get warm. Peculiar.
Ainslie and I ended up taking a nice long stroll through the Flats, stopping to look at our favorite houses and smelling our favorite gardens. It was as if all the flowers in Juneau had been waiting for this one day to let their scents go, like they'd all been holding onto it in a big, flowery practical joke. "Haha, the humans don't even notice that they don't smell us, just wait until the first warm day in weeks and then they'll realize what they've been missing!"
The entire town smelled like a potpourri satchel.
It was awesome.
Then, in a moment of divine providence, one of the friends whose number I couldn't recover on my phone called and invited me to sit in the sun in her front yard (we're all cats, remember?) with her and her daughter and I gleefully accepted, practically running over to her house (and running into another friend on the way). We sat the girls in the grass, Ainslie ate her first fistful of dirt, and I got a bit of a burn on my forearms. It was nice to have an afternoon of summer.
First of all, let me say that I can't blame you. Chocolate chex mix is one of life's most distinct pleasures; I am quite sure that the manna from heaven of which the Hebrew Bible speaks is, in fact, this most delectable of snacks. Call it what you may--chocolate chex mix, puppy chow--it is de-lish. The crunch of the chex with the sweetness of the chocolate, balanced by a hint of peanut butter and a touch of powdered sugar...who can resist it? And so I can understand the temptation of swiping a bag that you so happen to find in your travels. But you didn't just so happen to find this bag, did you? Indeed, it was placed in a very specific compartment of a very specific device. You didn't stumble across it on the sidewalk or find it at the bus stop. Oh no, Chex Mix Thief, you went through my stroller to find it.
Really? A stroller? Unless you watched us from afar and noted that my daughter is about a year too young to enjoy said snack, you couldn't have known that you weren't literally stealing candy from a baby. But since I'm still breastfeeding, you kind of did steal candy from a baby, so shame on you! I hope you're proud of yourself. Perhaps you knew all of that and wanted to ensure that I--and therefore Ainslie--had the best nutrition available. That's probably why you left the apple untouched. How thoughtful.
I suppose my waistline should thank you for saving me from a few hundred empty calories, and I hope that you enjoyed it for me. Hopefully you don't have a peanut allergy and if you do, then I suppose you got your comeuppance. Either way, I will think twice before leaving anything in my stroller the next time I carry my daughter into the downtown bookstore for a new bedtime story. Or at least next time I'll only leave the healthy stuff.
I remember back in the day when my dad would sit at the head of the dinner table, look over to my sister and me and say with a grin, "After dinner, I think I will surf the net". Visions of my dad on our front lawn, literally surfing on a volleyball net confused me. I had no idea what the Internet was, much like most of the rest of the world.
All this to say that I just set up a mobile hotspot on my phone so that anywhere it is, so also is there wireless.
Which means I can blog to my little heart's content now.
Thanks for your email. After discussing it with my husband, we've decided that I'd be delighted to accept your offer of admission to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry for the Fall Semester. I'll be sending in my deposit later this week!
Moving across the continent is an incredibly daunting prospect, but there's not another program I'd rather do it for! Thanks for all your help through this process! I'll see you in September!
Oy, ve. This is scary.
I guess this means my blog title has to change again, eh?
Please excuse the absence. Life got in the way. Since I last wrote, a plethora of happenings have, well happened. Ainslie rolled over to much fanfare, and then I stopped writing for so long that she rolled over the other way, from the other side, and also learned how to sit up. She's furiously (literally) working on a few teeth and is quite the talker these days. (I figured I should post again before she enters college.) We had Ainslie's baptism, which was a fantastic day. We flew to Anchorage for her NICU follow-up, which went well, then trooped onward through Chicago (where we surprised Kasey and heard some epic words of wisdom from Metropolitan Kallistos Ware) and into New Hampshire, where we found out that I was accepted to Boston College. Then back to rainy old Juneau just in time to move into a new, bigger apartment whose depths and nooks and crannies have been keeping me busy ever since, and whose lack of Internet access has kept me silent. Ainslie and I discovered "A Prairie Home Companion" on Sunday afternoons on NPR and have established a new Sabbath tradition. Tillamook has declared eternal warfare on the mobile hanging above Ainslie's crib and passionately attacks it every chance he gets, which has resulted in the door to Ainslie's room being constantly closed and lots of "KITTY, NO!!!!"s being shouted down the hall if it's left open on accident. Kip has been working night shift again, much to my chagrin, and I took on another concert with the Juneau Symphony this past weekend. Right on schedule, I went through one of my quarterly Julia Child obsession phases, this one being more fruitful than the last several as I actually got the nerve to cook some of her dishes instead of just read them and found her method of scrambling eggs to be a revelation. (There has been a lot of butter in our household lately.) Thanks to the Forbeses, the three of us discovered the absolute joy that the movie "Tangled" is.
And now it's Spring. Flowers are poking their first little shoots up out of the brown earth, Juneaunians are raking their lawns free of the pebbles left there by retreating snowbanks, and I excitedly ran into the apartment a few days ago declaring to Kip, "You can smell low tide!!! It has to be warm to smell low tide!!!!" Ainslie and I have rediscovered her stroller and take as many walks as possible on days when it's sunny. I'm trying to figure out a remedy to the "No Internet at the New Apartment" thing. Ideas include scheduling a ton of posts ahead of time when I can get to the library, and befriending whoever owns the password-protected "Yellow Cat Wireless" network. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually, but for now I'm stealing as many moments as I can to read "A Year in Provence", maybe take a nap, and write a few posts while I can. Something's better than nothing, right?
First of all, Ainslie is doing so incredibly awesome. She laughs and smiles and explores and is so interested in having adventures and seeing people that she often refuses to take naps unless I lay down with her in a dark room and convince her that I'm not having any fun without her and therefore it's okay to take a nap.
But I'm still living in the shadow of the NICU.
It's not that I'm not gradually coming to terms with everything, it's just that sometimes, especially at night and especially when I'm alone, my mind wanders back there. And tonight, as Kip and Ainslie are asleep in the next room and I'm up checking Facebook for no good reason, that's where my mind is. I could still walk through that ward blindfolded: past the sinks to scrub in, past the refrigerator where we put my milk for Ainslie's feeding tube and bottles, to her isolette (the second in a row of many, on the left side of the room), on the surprisingly dirty floor, across from the nurse's table, next to the spot on the counter where they let us put her Piglet blanket and the book we read to her every night before we left. The smell of soap and medical plastics and every once in awhile the whiff of a dirty diaper. The sounds of a dozen different alarms going off for a dozen different reasons--medication injectors finishing, O2 levels going too low, monitors coming unplugged--and the tiniest little cries coming from the beds of every other baby there, since they were all preemies except for Ainslie.
I didn't write about it at the time for a lot of reasons. I was exhausted. We were busy. And I just didn't know how to explain it all, how it felt to feel like a visitor at your child's bedside. How it felt to have the nurse be the authority on your child's behavior and schedule instead of you, to never get five seconds truly alone, and to have all your first-time parenting mistakes witnessed by baby care professionals with monitors and clipboards and charts. I know it should be assumed, but I'm going to say it anyways: the NICU is hard. And no amount of "Oh, but she's okay now, focus on that!" changes that. And we get the joy of going back to Anchorage next week for Ainslie's follow up with the NICU doctors. Fab.
We already knew that, based on the amount of complaining, Kip needed to get his wisdom teeth out soon.
On Monday when his jaw started hurting too, we found out he needed them out soon.
Like, this morning.
So today I am dropping Ainslie off at Mary's house for a few hours and swinging by the grocery store for puree-able foods and Percocet (woo!) while Kip's in surgery. Luckily, we haven't even taken the shrink wrap off the Blu Ray version of "The Pacific" that he got for Christmas, so I'm thinking we're all going to be learning a lot about WWII according to HBO in the next few days. Kip is also looking forward to pain medication-driven games of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Edition. I'm thinking it'll probably be even more ridiculous than average.
Oh, and we just got THE MOST AMAZING box of Julius Meinl tea in the mail. Literally a box...like, a wooden box with the Julius Meinl logo on it full of Julius Meinl tea. I'm taking hosting Tina's baby shower tea as an opportunity to stock up on things that I've always wanted, like a tea chest and a three-tiered dessert display. I'm thinking that there's nothing a nice brew from Julius Meinl can't fix here, even a husband with chipmunk cheeks and four less teeth than before.
1. Big happenings in the land of parenthood: we made the switch to cloth diapers last week and it's gone surprisingly well. The highlight? The look on Kip's face when I dunked our first soiled diaper in the toilet to get the, er, soil off.
2. THE EMPANADA PLACE IN THE NEW BUS DEPOT IS AMAZING. I'm trying to finagle as many lunch dates there as I can.
3. I went to my very first Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Friday with Steph and it was lovely. We sat there with Jesus and decompressed.
4. The picture frame we got in the mail from Kasey and Matt. Also, the fact that all the lovely cookies and peppermint bark they made for us were just so excited to get to Alaska that they launched themselves out of their cookie tin and sprinkled themselves jubilantly around the box. It was a festive opening, to say the least. Crumbs don't have calories, right?!?
5. My latest home decorating ideas. Best one as of late: the guest room will have a pale, green-gray color on the walls and everything else will be white, with splashes of color throughout (I'm thinking particularly of some purple hydrangeas and the photo of the flower vendor I took in Norway)
6. Symphony rehearsal is really coming together. We've even had a few of "those" moments...you know the ones where you realize this is why you started playing music in the first place? They make me feel alive.
7. I submitted my applications to Loyola and Boston College. Gulp.
8. I have a campus visit for Boston College scheduled in March and I'm SO excited to go. I'm resisting the urge to buy new shoes from Shoefly for the occasion.
9. Our afternoon on Friday: Kip did some business at the bank downtown while I carried Ainslie around (it was warm enough!) and got some drinking chocolate from Pie in the Sky and then bought some flowers from The Plant People to spruce up our apartment since it's been so grey and rainy lately. The drinking chocolate was tasty to the extreme and the flowers are divine. Button mums, gerber daisies, forsythia and the most gorgeous pink and orange snapdragons. I love the people at The Plant People.
I've lately become completely obsessed with the concept of "home". Could you tell? I don't know if it was brought about by Ainslie's arrival or just becoming aware that we've outgrown Juneau in every way possible, but I'm itching to go back home to New England and hunker down for, well, ever.
Ever since we were dating (and probably even before that, just separately) Kip and I have dreamed of buying an old farmhouse on a few acres and renovating it. It's been an idea that's taken hold of us, keeping us up at night with ideas and plans and scenario-rehearsing. Kip wants wooded land, the kind that he can make walking trails in, where he can go for a hike and not leave our tidy little world. I dream of a little clearing behind the house where I can plant a tiny orchard, just big enough for Ainslie and I to walk through in the afternoons, where I can spot a perfectly ripe apple and reach up and pick it, wiping it on my shirt sleeve before handing it down to Ainslie, who relishes its sweetness and giggles at the juice running down her chin. I want to invite our family and friends over for a day when all the fruit is ripe and enjoy a harvest together, tossing our homegrown produce into baskets and walking up to the house together where the kitchen quickly becomes steamy and crowded with baking pies and cooking preserves and the people making them all, and then we all have a big dinner together, and Kip and I thank everyone for their help and send them home with the literal fruits of their labor. We want the creaky floors and the drafty windows that we're always cursing in a house that has seen so many more tenants than just us, a house that we have to get to know, and vice versa.
Hopefully we'll get there soon. In the meantime, we dream.
1. Kip made an epic cleanup of our room. Seriously, if it were in a commercial, it'd make that "ding!" sound and sparkle. When he showed me, I walked around and grinned like a fool for about five minutes.
2. Weird thing to smile about, but sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying: it was so cold last week that the windchill during our 60 mph gusts of wind was -30 degrees. My hair froze in the parking lot at the Merchant's Wharf. And it wasn't even wet.
3. Thursday, after having breakfast with Father Thomas and Sarah Search 'n Rescue at the Sandpiper, Kip, Ainslie and I promptly jumped back into bed to warm ourselves up after the freezing trip home (see #2). Tillamook joined us and we all had a nice, warm family nap at ten in the morning.
4. I pried open the box of too-big-now-but-eventually-Ainslie-will-grow-into-them clothes that I'd set aside only to find that the vast majority of them fit her now. It was like going shopping in my own home, except I didn't have to spend any money!
5. Finding out I can have my blog printed (see post below)
6. Planning Tina's baby shower. I'm probably having a little too much fun with it!
7. Watching Ainslie find her feet for the first time. She was so proud of herself!
8. Our entire day yesterday: we woke up, had breakfast and then played two games of Catan, three games of Sorry, did assorted responsible things throughout, and ended the day by watching "Despicable Me" for the second day in a row because it was that good.
9. The handwarmer mug that Kip got me for Christmas. I use it pretty much everyday.
10. Would it be bad to say that Kip's broken big toe made me smile? It's not that I enjoy his pain, I just like that it meant that he had to stay home from work for two days, so we basically got a six day weekend as a family. That made me smile.
...but I found two amazing websites that I feel deserve mention.
Amazing Website #1: Mixbook.com I really wish I'd found this website while we were planning our wedding, or when I was making Ainslie's birth announcement but oh, ho ho am I going to make up for lost time now! It's the only website I've ever found that prints completely customizable stationery at a super reasonable price. I found it while looking for invitations for my sister-in-law Tina's baby shower and oh boy. I'm in love. Just wait until Christmas next year. Or come to think of it, I might have to make up a holiday just so I can make cards to send. Anyone fancy a resurrection of Farch from the good 'ol college days?
Amazing Website #2: Blog2Print. Just when I'd started thinking that I should probably print out this blog before some catastrophic Internet freak-out ruins the last three years of my work, I found Blog2Print. For the low, low price of $151.96 I could have my entire 350+ page blog turned into a book. First of all, holy cow I wrote over 350 pages worth of stuff? Second, that's less than 50 cents a page, so it's not so bad. Third, that's still too much for me to do it but I found a way to make it work! "...Just Alaska" wasn't always "...Just Alaska", so I think I'll print out different (smaller and therefore cheaper) volumes based on the blog's different titles as I can afford them. It makes me really happy to think of having them on our bookshelf and Ainslie wandering in some day asking what they are. I'm excited to be able to show her that I actually have had a pretty interesting life.
It seems that I can't just have a drama-free orchestral experience.
So there I stand, eating a peanut butter granola bar during the break in our first symphony rehearsal a couple of weeks ago, when I see some movement out of the corner of my eye. I look over to see who has entered the room as I take a bite of said granola bar and promptly choke on it: it's one of my former midwives. Awkward.
Now, it's not like I haven't seen the midwives out and about around town before; alas, I've run into this one (and two others) at the grocery store. I don't imagine that they all constantly live at the Birth Center, humming around their little baby-shaped hive like little worker birthing bumble bees (although that does form quite an interesting mental picture). And I like this midwife quite a bit. We got along in the whole prenatal process. She was there at Bean's Birth Day Attempt #1. She wasn't in any way involved in Bean's Birth Day Attempt #3, so no hard feelings there. She has fabulous hair that I've always secretly been fascinated by. And she is the only midwife to date that has actually seen Ainslie. I like this woman, and I want to be her friend in an elementary school, kicking-the-ground-while-asking-if-I-can-play-with-you-at-recess kind of way. The problem is that, along with a cloud of Earth Mama Fabulousity, she also brings with her all the memories and ideas of what could've been when it came to Ainslie's birth, and what actually did happen. For the better part of ten months, I had this picture in my mind of what it would be like to finally meet our little Bean: we'd be at the Birth Center, and I'd push and push and push and they'd tell me the baby was coming and then she'd be there and they'd hand her to me and Kip and I would cry with joy and say, "It's Ainslie!" and she'd be crying and cold and generally pissed that she'd just been squeezed into the world, but we'd be a family and we'd all crawl into bed together and cuddle until we'd go home a few hours later, where we'd embark upon the adventures of parenthood and the midwives would come visit the next day to check in on us and congratulate us on such a beautiful baby who entered the world in such a beautiful way.
Obviously, this isn't what happened. We cried with fear instead and didn't get to cuddle as a family for the better part of three weeks while she lay in an isolette in the NICU and it took two and a half months for me to even be able to sit up on my own because of all the pushing and exhaustion and major surgery and she is a beautiful baby (even the NICU nurses said so) but she didn't enter the world in such a beautiful way. And seeing that midwife again brought all of those would-be memories and "did that really happen?" experiences back. And I get to experience that again twice a week for the next month. Hooray.
So I choked on my granola bar, went over and said hi while trying to seem chipper and avoiding eye contact, and spent the next rehearsal glancing over at the oboe section every three seconds just like I did in my college symphony rehearsals when my trumpet-playing ex-boyfriend who hated my guts would attend rehearsals and give me the stink eye during breaks, casting a giant cloud of awkwardness over the whole experience.
On the plus side, I was secretly very proud of the fact that she caught me eating a peanut butter granola bar, since it's just so very high in protein.
This bench, which has a cushion on top of it made out of...
(and there are a bunch of pillows in various fabrics to lean on that also live on the bench, which will sit on one side of a matching dining room table, with the more traditional chairs on the other side)
Now, just to decide what should go into the cubbies in the shelf--the awesome handwarmer mugs that Kip got me for Christmas? And assorted teas? Or maybe our everyday dishes for easy access? I'm thinking that we should put the giant canvas print of one of our wedding photos on top of the shelf, with the jar that holds my bouquet next to it.
And they said I'd be all nesty when I was pregnant.
Ba! That was about cleaning the floor four times a day; this is about putting together a home.
It has come to my attention that I haven't done a Ten Things Tuesday since Ainslie was born. I justify this by referencing my sleeping habits since then, unreliable Internet access through the late Fall and early Winter, and the Debbie Downer circumstance that I don't necessarily always smile as much as I used to since all the stress of......everything in my life. But that's when we truly need a list of things that made us smile, no? I'm working on it.
Ten Things That Made Me Smile This Past Week (or three months, you know):
1. How much Ainslie enjoys her diaper changes. Seriously, she kicks and smiles and laughs and has a ball! Either she really enjoys personal hygiene or she really enjoys being naked---one of these is a family trait, the other isn't. I'll leave you to imagine which is which.
2. The idea of crocheting myself a sweater. I just might do it.
3. Spending close to the entire day with Father Thomas yesterday. He's back in town for a priest's meeting and I ferried him around on all his errands after picking him up at the airport. Awkward "Oh, he's not my husband despite the fact that we're both wearing rings and he's carrying around my baby. Haven't you noticed the Roman collar?" explanations abounded.
4. I had a fabulous hair day a few days ago. It was down. It was long. It was almost frizz-free. I felt like a WOMAN again, not just a mom!
5. Ikea daydreams. Seriously, it's a little pathetic how much I've furnished our hypothetical future home.
6. Casey and Tina (my brother- and sister-in-law) are having a baby girl and we're so excited!!!!! As Kip put it to Casey, "I like to establish the gender by having Ainslie wear a bow, but after that you can put her in anything you want!" Keep back, ladies, he's taken.
7. Planning Tina's baby shower--it's been super fun.
8. The sun has shone for three days now and it's not supposed to be cloudy again until Saturday. I'm planning on taking my camera out to Twin Lakes at some point before then and taking pictures of people skating on the orange ice (not to be confused with yellow snow....it's orange because it reflects the sun)
9. Super guilty pleasure smile: the new season of "Kourtney and Kim Take New York" premieres in twelve days. I'm terrible.
10. Coffee with Stephanie. I always leave that house feeling so holy and ready to be a wife and mother. It's intoxicating.
Every once in awhile I stop what I'm doing and realize:
Holy crap, I live in Alaska!
The moment happens spontaneously and in seemingly random places that have included:
1. Biking back from the grocery store
2. The frozen yogurt place downtown
3. Driving down the road
4. Sitting on the couch staring into nothingness
5. The yarn shop, with a skein of Tree Hugger's Wife yarn in my hand (which, by the way, is the most amazing yarn I've ever worked with and you should check it out here)
I'm told by fellow Juneau-imports that it's not an uncommon experience to have these moments of revelation, and I sort of feel bad for born-and-raised local Alaskans (Living in Alaska Lesson #1: there is a HUGE and nearly unforgivable difference between calling yourself a "local" and a "native") because I doubt they have these sudden moments of awe mixed with insanity--because that's really what living here inspires: a simultaneous mixture of "wow, that mountain is so pretty", "I hate that mountain because it stands in the way of a road getting out of here" and "Hmm, maybe I should get a new pair of Extra Tuffs to wear so I can hike that mountain and then go out to dinner afterwards". I'm thankful for the isolation because it makes possible things like never stepping foot inside a Babies R Us in my life (that store totally freaks me out, even...and maybe more so...with a child) but I curse it when I could really use a Target nearby. Or a Jamba Juice. Or heck, even just fresh produce.
The people here, accordingly, tend to be a little of what my Dad would call the "crunchy granola" type, and I love it. I think I will probably be classified as the "crunchy granola" type if/when we move back to New England, unless people there have relaxed by a factor of about a billion since we left (unlikely). I sometimes stand in awe of the true masters of the "crunchy granola" lifestyle here in Juneau, the people who shop at Rainbow Foods and take part in the bread co-op and wear their Extra Tuffs with skirts or suits and play folk instruments like the fiddle (not to be confused with a violin, ahem). Take, for example, the principal flutist in the Juneau Symphony. She intrigues me. She's a fantastic musician, and from what I've observed from my observation post in the string section, a fantastic person as well. She's one of those rare people who is completely content with herself and doesn't care what others dictate as fashionable or pretty, and she's made all the more beautiful for it. She's the perfect mix of Earth Mama and practiced musician with long, greying hair that has no product whatsoever in it pulled back so she can read her music without interruption from a stray strand. She has no wrinkles. Seriously. I'm 23 and I have more wrinkles than this woman. I fancy that it comes from a life lived in a cabin next to a stream of the freshest water in the world and wearing homespun wool skirts on a daily basis. In reality she probably lives in a condo on Douglas Island and clothing shops at Fred Meyer, but I hold to my fantasy!
I know that someday I'll be somewhere else and someone will come over to visit some afternoon and see a piece of art or a photo or a piece of pottery and say, "How unique, where is that from?" and I'll say "Oh, we used to live in Alaska" and I'll look back wistfully at the adventure of it all and lament that I didn't take better advantage of it while I had the chance. But for now, I'll curse the 18 hours of darkness and ridiculously expensive housing market and continue dropping whatever I'm doing on an occasional basis to realize once again, "Holy crap, I live in Alaska!" And maybe go for a hike this afternoon with Father Thomas when he comes to visit.
For some reason, I have an uncanny attraction to terminally ill bloggers. I choose to believe that it's because they, faced with death, write with more beauty and truth and appreciation for life. Tessa, of "An Aerial Armadillo" was art. I don't even say she was an "artist", even though she was, she was art itself! Everything she saw--a plant, an experience, a mug in her kitchen--was full of color and joy and dance and she allowed those things to sink into her like water into a sponge; they sunk in so much that, reaching her saturation point, she oozed art out of her very essence. No moment, no trivial object or day was without wonder in her eyes, and she wrote about it.
I was lucky enough to win a piece of her own artwork from her, a print called "Dance, Mama, Dance!". At the moment, it sits atop the cabinet in our bathroom, adding some color and joy to the most mundane room in our apartment. I think she'd enjoy knowing that. I found out about her passing yesterday and today I think I'll take my camera out no matter the weather and make some art of my own. See color in Juneau's dreary skies. And dance. For Tessa.
It's not that I didn't think about blogging over the past three and a half weeks. I did--I sat down and tried to write several times, but I couldn't think of anything to say. There's just been so much happening:
we had a flawless flight with a two-month-old
I felt more at home in a house I'd never been to than I often do in my own apartment
sunny mornings in Texas made way to even sunnier afternoons
Ainslie figured out how to use her hands and her voice and has been singing us the sweetest songs my ears have ever beheld
doctor's offices, doctor's visits, doctor's procedures that I never want to go through with Ainslie again
we had Christmas with Kip's family in Seattle
we took our first Mommy-Daddy date (and saw "Harry Potter" a month after everyone else)
and now, back to Juneau where Epiphany celebrations, a cluttered apartment, and a slightly impulsive application to Boston College await me
I'm sure that years from now, Kip and I will be sitting on a similar couch to the one I'm on now and I'll put my head on his shoulder and say, "Our little girl is getting married today" and all of this medical nonsense will seem far away and painless and easy. For now, I'm focusing on the one-and-a-half-sided conversations that Ainslie and I have been having ("Aaaaeeeeeegooooooaahhhh" "Oh, really?" "Uhhhhhgggahhhhhhhhh" "And what else did the octopus say?") and fantasizing about our Ikea-furnished home of the hopefully not too distant future.
Specifically, I dream about this ginormous leaf mounted over Ainslie's crib in her "outdoors brought in"-themed room. I have big dreams for a reading nook too.
I also imagine what I'll put in and on this side table, placed against a wall in the kitchen. Lately it's been cloth napkins and cutlery in the drawers, brightly colored ceramic mixing bowls on top, and toys for Ainslie to play with while I cook on the bottom shelf--tupperware bowls and spoons and dried pasta and cloth renditions of fruits and vegetables so she can "cook", too. I have yet to decide what photo I'll hang above it. I have big plans to choose a set of my photos to have printed on pulled canvas to hang on the walls.
Maybe this one of the rowhouses in Stavanger, Norway. To remind us of travel and family.